Most formats of Modern Retail shall reopen from Monday 28 Jun. ‘21 across Tamil Nadu, as per a GO released by the State Government of Tamil Nadu on Friday. After 8 weeks of lockdown in the State, which started with a full closure of all retail formats (other than essentials such as grocery shops, fruits and vegetable vendors) from the first week of May onwards, the state witnessed a gradual reopening amidst relaxation of lockdown regulations across the state over the past 3 weeks.
Retailers across all formats have been severely affected due to the second wave of the dreaded Covid-19 which has taken more lives and livelihoods than during the first wave which occurred around the same time in 2020. The lockdown was absolutely unforeseen and many retailers were unprepared for such a sudden closure of shops which had severely impacted sales and cash flows, so much so that many businesses are on the verge of a complete closure. The recent announcement that all formats of shopping, especially fashion apparel, clothing lines and jewellery shall reopen but with restrictions such as no a/c inside the stores, only 50% patrons inside the premises, etc. has brought much cheer to the retailer community across the state.
“Almost all our stores would be open by 28th. Great relief for us. Timings restriction still can be relaxed further as most plan their shopping after 7 pm. Extension of timings can be done with strict implementation of COVID preventive measures at shops.” Said Mr. Gandhi Rajan, Head – Branding, Sathya, one of the largest retailers of Consumer Durables with over 100 branches and a deep focus in Tier 2/3 cities. The consumer durables industry has been very badly hit ever since the pandemic began. with anticipated job losses and reduction in household incomes, upgrading Electronics has been the last priority for most middle class families. Also, IPL ‘21 stopped midway, which is usually season where many new models of TV are launched by Brands. Summer has been a wipe-out for Air-conditioners and coolers, due to lower usage of a/c as well as reduction in consumption by middle class families. Laptops and Mobile phones sales have been on an upswing but offline retailers didn’t benefit much, since most customers prefer buying online due to lower prices. Also, the Government had allowed delivery of non-essentials by E-Commerce companies which turned up to be a very bad implication for offline retailers.
Mr. Prabhu Pachhaiyappan, who’s family runs the eponymous chain of “Pachhaiyappan Silks” in Kanchipuram as well as other parts of the state said, “After 60 long days Textiles and Jewellery shops are reopening in Category 3 district following the SOPs, This decision will surely benefit the direct and indirect persons involved in these industries. Government can consider adding other districts with less than 5% Covid cases to the Category 3 districts for relaxations”. The mass market and mid-market textiles industry has been severely impacted due to major curtailment of weddings and ceremonies in Q1 which is usually a good season for the business. As no more than 50 people were allowed for weddings, guests who didn’t have to attend the proceedings refrained from buying new clothes which has impacted the weaving industry very badly, pushing many small weavers and those in supply chain to abject poverty. The “Aadi month” which begins mid-July is only a further deterrent as most purchases for auspicious occasions doesn’t happen during this time. Rather, textile retailers are pushed to offer further discounts, which is going to be no better this season as well.
“The most awaited and welcome move from the TN Government, appreciate the balance of safety and economic development.” said Mr. Sunil Sanklecha, Founder and MD, Nuts “N’ Spices, Tamil Nadu’s oldest premium grocery and speciality food retailer with over 30 branches across the state. While household consumption has been going down significantly due to a weak economic outlook, WFH for corporates, IT & ITES Industries and many others have also pushed consumption of premium products such as Badam, Dates, etc. as they work as a better snack than junk food such as chips and savouries.
While there is much anticipation for the Unlock of business, many are not kicked up enough. The CEO of a leading fashion apparel (requested not to be named for this article) selling formal Men’s wear and has stores in Malls is not too excited. He feels that footfalls will be too thin at the moment even if malls open. Those who come will not be serious buyers and there are no festivals or muhurats coming up anytime soon. Malls will start charging rentals, we need to pay staff salaries and incur other business costs but we shall bleed more by opening stores, he quipped.
The reopening of retail stores is good news in general. However, whether this will convert in to business immediately is anybody’s guess. Experts and Economists are predicting that the economic revival this year shall be faster than last year, however the new Delta variant found recently and advisory by Doctors is not too encouraging. We may have to simply open doors and see what happens over the next 4 weeks.